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The Sad State of Neoconservative Thought: A Tale in One Tweet

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Because the Original Trilogy was too Subtle for Neoconservatives

Bill Kristol has spent the early hours of 2017 sharing his ‘big thoughts’ about the state of the world and his predictions for the New Year.

fileI won’t spend much time on the second of these pieces, which is a rambling disquisition on how Tudor England elevated itself from the position of a third-tier to a second-tier power during the reign of Elizabeth I. What are the salient points of comparison? Best I can tell, most people in both 21st-century United States and 16th-century England speak English.

The first, however, is the classic 2002 Jonathan Last piece claiming that we should really be rooting for the Galactic Empire in the Star Wars franchise. Inspired by the existential crisis Lucas generated among some conservative fans by turning his prequels into a critique of the Bush Administration, Last explained that the corrupt Republic needed the strong hand of the Emperor to preserve order. Also, destroying Alderaan is totally justified.

Leia’s lies are perfectly defensible–she thinks she’s serving the greater good–but they make her wholly unreliable on the question of whether or not Alderaan really is peaceful and defenseless. If anything, since Leia is a high-ranking member of the rebellion and the princess of Alderaan, it would be reasonable to suspect that Alderaan is a front for Rebel activity or at least home to many more spies and insurgents like Leia.

Whatever the case, the important thing to recognize is that the Empire is not committing random acts of terror. It is engaged in a fight for the survival of its regime against a violent group of rebels who are committed to its destruction.

When Sonny Bunch resurrected and embellished this argument in 2015, it didn’t work out much better. Because, in fact, the Empire’s decision to destroy Alderaan has nothing to do with the level of rebel activity there. As Daniel Drezner points out, it’s contradicted by the script itself. And as Luke Perez notes, even if everything Last and Bunch claim was correct about the Empire’s motives, the genocidal destruction of a populous planet is immoral by pretty much any standards for military conflict not embraced by the Mongols.

In fact, the destruction of Alderaan is a narrative device. For example, it establishes the “power” of the Death Star—an important thing, as the threat posed by the Death Star drives the film. It also is supposed to remove any doubts about the moral universe of Star War. If you somehow didn’t understand that the Empire’s visuals  scream “Nazis,” missed the significance of calling their soldiers “Storm Troopers,” or failed to notice the score’s audio cues … well, there’s the Empire destroying an entire planet for the explicit purpose of terrorizing the galaxy into submission.

In 1983, Ronald Reagan genuflected toward the Star Wars franchise when he called the Soviet Union an “Evil Empire.” In 1996, Bill Kristol co-authored “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy,” one of the most important statements of neoconservative foreign policy:

What should that role be? Benevolent global hegemony. Having defeated the “evil empire,” the United States enjoys strategic and ideological predominance. The first objective of U.S. foreign policy should be to preserve and enhance that predominance by strengthening America’s security, supporting its friends, advancing its interests, and standing up for its principles around the world.

In his 2017 prediction that we will increasingly “appreciate the case for (liberal) empire,” Kristol highlights an infamous fourteen year-old apologia for a tyrannical, illiberal, racist, fictional Nazi space empire.

I can’t imagine how neoconservative intellectuals lost their party to Trumpism.

Bonus: in case you were feeling slightly more optimistic about the next four years…

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  • wengler

    Destruction of the world by February confirmed.

    • JBC31187

      If we’re lucky.

      • cpinva

        he could just continue tweeting, with a brief break for the inauguration.

        anyone who didn’t realize the “Empire” was the Nazis was intentionally ignoring it. it was pretty obvious from the get go.

        • Derelict

          Wow. This means Kristol was wrong about the movie. Amazing!

        • It wasn’t obvious if you were ten.

          I am not really sure Lucas didn’t have it in his mind to rescue the iconography of empire (Roman, Egyptian, German, Etc.), which he had innocently enjoyed as a child himself, from its association with bad stuff by the people making films that were “not fun.” He isn’t Spielberg. Lucas never had a Hazmat team portrayed as the fascist enemy like he did.

          Contrarian take: It was actually a good thing to separate Eliot from ET! Let’s see Kristol take that one on!

        • los
    • Tehanu

      Oh great. The Man Who’s Wrong About Everything strikes again. WASF.

  • Is there an American neo-con who wouldn’t have rooted for the British during the American Revolution?

    • CrunchyFrog

      Oh, it’s more than that. I have to quibble with the title – The Sad State of Neoconservative Thought: A Tale in One Tweet – because the implication is that this is a “state”, something which can be changed, rather than a defining attribute without which it ceases to be an authoritarian, which itself is a prerequisite to being a Neocon.

      In the 90s I read Neocons arguing that Ebineezer Scrooge actually was correct in the early part of a Christmas Carol and, before the prequels, arguing that Vader’s empire was actually on the right side and that the James Bond villains were the good guys. Their whole ethos is built around screwing the majority of the people and justifying it because they are the stronger members of the species. And of course, who amongst us does not have a relative or friend who has argued that the Apartheid regime and the Jim Crow ruling class were in the right? And of course that the slaves were better off as slaves.

      Authoritarians always imagine that they’ll be part of the ruling emperor class – even the obvious tokens like Malkin. They completely miss the point in these movies when the evil lord/dictator publicly, violently, kills off a long time loyal servant who has dedicated his life to the cause including committing of mass murder on his’ lord/dictators orders.

      • They would not be able to support assigning Dickens in school unless they could depict it as supporting their idea of correctness.

        • DocAmazing

          I’m not so sure. Remember, these are the children of the people who were wildly supportive of Anita Bryant’s anti-gay crusade while buying truckloads of Village People albums. Clues are in short supply among that crowd.

          • CrunchyFrog

            Oh Oh Oh. Memories. High school. Wingnuts.

            One guy alternated two t-shirts for much of his sophomore year: a John Birch “Get us out of the UN” t-shirt and a Village People t-shirt. I enjoyed explaining to him the origin of the Village People.

      • Snuff curry

        James Bond villains were the good guys

        Are you saying Messrs Wint and Kidd weren’t?

      • los

        Authoritarians always imagine that they’ll be part of the ruling emperor class – even the obvious tokens like Malkin

        ernst rohm
        “no, not me. you promised to kill the jews. not me.”

    • Is there an American neo-con who wouldn’t have rooted for the British during the American Revolution?

      Given their recent outright cheering of Vladimir Putin and company, I doubt it. Lord North’s Administration had every right to close the port of Boston…

    • Yankee

      I point once again to The Cousins’ Wars. Neo-cons, Confederates, Tories, all same-o same-o. They have had these temporary glitches, but they keep coming.

      (Puritans are different, headline writers to the contrary.)

    • Donalbain

      Yes, lots of them would have been deeply economically concerned about the way the British were treating black soldiers and Native Americans.

      • JBC31187

        This. The British were the Empire, but if I recall correctly, London was pretty horrified at how badly the colonials were treating the Native Americans and the slaves (to be scrupulously fair, I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded so much if it was their wallet). Even taking into account the generation difference, Patrick Henry reads like a modern American Libertarian.

        • osceola

          Yes, the Brits tried to draw a line between the colonials and the tribes, but they couldn’t enforce it. The Crown’s diplomacy with the nearby tribes (like the Iroquois Confederacy in the north and the Creek Confederacy in the south) was definitely an issue among the independence minded colonials.

          • Hogan

            Just another defense against the French that they didn’t want to pay for.

    • cpinva

      “Is there an American neo-con who wouldn’t have rooted for the British during the American Revolution?”

      a lot of slaves not only did, but crossed lines to join up with them, because the Brits offered them freedom. Can’t say as I blame them. Oddly though, it was in the Southern, slaveholding states that the revolution was least popular among the slaveholders themselves. go figure.

      • los

        too early for allegiances to be influenced by Cotton trade?

  • Nobdy

    How can you criticize Last’s writing when it contains such compelling arguments as:

    Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator–but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet.

    These people don’t just willfully misinterpret fiction, they rewrite actual Earth Prime history in weird fanfics that abuse and misstate the canon with abandon!

    • Derelict

      You have to understand the moral strictures of these people. A leader who threatens to nationalize big businesses or to move toward any kind of socialism is a dread horror from which the world must recoil, and which the United States must use every possible power at its disposal to destroy.

      However, a leader who simply forces big businesses to funnel significant chunks of their profits into the leader’s pockets while imprisoning, torturing, and killing significant numbers of his own people is the very model of forward-thinking friend whom the United States must use every possible power at its disposal to prop up.

      Because what is freedom, after all, if not some totemic word to be at once uttered constantly and avoided assiduously?

      • Bubblegum Tate

        Oh, absolutely. The most you’ll ever get is a vague admission that yeah, maybe Pinochet got a little bit carried away, but that doesn’t really matter because Free Markets! Meanwhile, any movement to the left means that leader is the most ruthless, disgusting dictator the world has ever seen. I’ve seen the “at least we got something good out of Pinochet, while [insert any vaguely left-wing leader here] did nothing but bad things” argument more times than I can count.

        • rachelmap

          Once again I’m reminded of Mark Russell’s comment on one of his shows in the 1980s concerning how the American government worked to undermine left-wing dictators while at the same time supporting right-wing ones. “They each walk like a duck and quack like a duck therefore, both must be ducks. So, why is the one on the right a sacred cow?”

      • I think this is true. The main beef conservatives have always had with the Castro dictatorship is the national health care.

        • los

          maybe also, “What happens in a Batistan W***house stays in a Batistan W***house”

          digressing… Batista kept promises Putin doesn’t?

      • XTPD
  • Jackson87

    A quick check finds an estimate of 9800 victims of Pinochet (from the BBC.)
    So, yeah, in comparison to Stalin, or Pol Pot, I guess he was like an adorable Disney character to live under.

    • Nobdy

      With those numbers you had an EXCELLENT chance of not being tossed out of an airplane over the ocean where your family would never find out what happened to you. And yet liberal whiners STILL complain about extrajudicial executions of political opponents, even when practiced in moderation!

    • MidwestVillager

      Yes Last can say Pinochet was better than some dictators but if your (Last’s) definition of a relatively benign dictator is still someone who systematically tortures and murders people this actually serves as an argument that all dictatorships are evil and you shouldn’t consider rooting for the Empire without hard evidence the Rebels are worse.

  • postmodulator

    “Why We Should Cry When ET Lives,” by Jonathan Last.

    • postmodulator

      “Sometimes The Real Crime Is To NOT Decapitate A Woman: A Defense Of John Doe,” by Jonathan Last.

      • postmodulator

        “It’s Not Personal, It’s Business: The Capitalist Ethics Of Michael Corleone,” by Jonathan Last.

        • postmodulator

          “Who The Hell Did Django Think He Was? The Importance Of Property Rights,” by Jonathan Last.

          • “Who The Hell Did Django Think He Was? The Importance Of Property Rights,”

            Oh, that’s good.

            • postmodulator

              Honestly it’s only about a ten percent exaggeration. I can easily picture a hot take called “The Misunderstood Monsieur Candie.”

          • Bubblegum Tate

            Commenting because there aren’t upvotes. That’s some quality work there.

        • “Why it is Wrong for Americans to Venerate The Leftist Criminal Agitator Tom Joad”
          – By Jonathan Last

        • How Pilate’s Refusal to Speak the Words ‘Radical Judeo Terrorism’ Undermines The Empire’s Moral Clarity.” by Jonathan Last.

      • CrunchyFrog

        “Reversing Decline: How the Voldemort Model is for the Greater Good”, by Jonathan Last.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        “Keeping An Eye On Us All: Sauron and the Need for Great Powers” by Jonathan Last

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          “Listening to Iago: Why Acting on Bad Intelligence is Better Than Failing to Act” by Jonathan Last

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            ooooo, I like

    • tonycpsu

      Let me try:

      “An enemy of Cobra Kai deserves no mercy: If Leg Sweeps are Outlawed, Then Only Outlaws Will Have Leg Sweeps,” by Jonathan Last.

    • “Defending the Sanctity of Property: Why Reprogramming the T-101 Was a Crime Against Skynet”, by Jonathan Last

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      The Great Tom Buchanan by Jonathan Last

      • postmodulator

        Oh, that’s better than any of mine. Well done.

    • David Allan Poe

      “What’s the Point of Power if You Don’t Use It: Why the Nazis Should Have Gotten the Ark,” by Jonathan Last

    • The Dark God of Time

      “Rice, Morgan and Armitage: Premature anti-CCD?”

    • “The Hannibal Lector High-Protein, Low-Carb Diet”

      (best I could do)

    • Colin Day

      “Valjean should just surrender to Javert.” by Jonathan Last.

      • ChrisGrrr

        Created an account to get on here and say – this thread is _tremendous._

    • Snuff curry

      “Sucks To That Kid’s Asthmar For Real Tho”

      “If She Loves that Wallpaper So Much Maybe She Should Fucking Live There”

      • Snuff curry

        “They Probably Shot Themselves: Four False Flag-Wavers Dead in Ohio”

  • veleda_k

    They’re actually rooting for the evil empire. Conservatives have become caricatures of themselves, actual cartoon villains. (Sure, I already knew that. But clearly, there’s no degree of petty nastiness they won’t stoop to.)

    • Nobdy

      I feel like voting for Donald Trump for actual president is a much greater crossing of the Rubicon than bad hot takes on fictional movies by specific “hot takes” pundits.

      Trump ran an openly racist campaign, was revealed as a sexual predator, was obviously unqualified and incompetent, and still got tens of millions of votes.

      There is no longer any limit to how far they can sink. An actual Hitler type who explicitly advocates genocide? Sure, why not? How many steps further is that from Donald Trump?

      • Derelict

        How many steps further is that from Donald Trump?

        Two election cycles, tops.

      • CrunchyFrog

        Keep in mind that Hitler did not explicitly advocate open genocide, and many Good Germans were able to pretend that it was not happening. The Germans were told that the Jews were being moved to repopulate the Sudentenland (or similar lies) and they said afterwards that they believed the lies. Given all of the other lies they bought into I can see how a number of the probably clung to that notion, even as whispers from Germans who returned from the death camps became more ubiquitous and as the houses in places like Dachau suffered from thick grease layers on the windows due to the burning of bodies.

        Do expect that any similar activities here will start small and get worse, slowly, always with cover stories. And that each step of the way the GOP will follow along. Initially with a few grumblers as they have now, but eventually those people will be silenced.

        In short, the GOP already has fully embraced whatever evils will be perpetrated by their elected leaders. They just don’t know it yet because it hasn’t yet happened.

        • DocAmazing

          We see what we Wannsee?

          • Keaaukane

            +1. That was brutal brilliant.

        • Donalbain

          I’m not all the way through it, but I am reading “The German War” and it seems that the idea that Germans didn’t know about the slaughter of the Jewish population is something of a convenient myth. There was quite a lot of talk amongst German civilians during the saturation bombings that it was some sort of divine punishment for the way that they treated the Jews.

          • Given National Socialism as a deliberately pagan ideology–which I think is only a little bit true, but fruitful (and remember Freud’s suggestion that antisemitism comes from Europeans’ being “badly baptized”)–perhaps a few who said that may have felt it was the Jews’ deity punishing them, not any god they felt a call to obey.

            • Donalbain

              There were very few pagans in the German population. The overwhelming majority were Christians. And frankly, who cares what the charlatan Freud says about anything?

              • The Wehrmacht had “Gott Mit Uns” inscribed on their belt buckles.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  That was also true of their WWI predecessors, my mother had one that was inscribed Verdun and turned into an ashtray.

                • los

                  recently recurring satire
                  search found
                  fashions for fab reactionaries

          • “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” by Daniel Goldhagen makes a similar case: that a lot of Germans not only knew about the holocaust but went along with it.

            • I think his case is more subtle than that (I’ve read only part of the book, though), but IIRC he argues that when people, not military officers, had a choice of how to treat Jews, they decided based on what they already believed about Jews, not because they were compelled by others.

            • Marek

              Goldhagen went a lot farther than that: he argued that the Holocaust had its roots in the German national character.

          • bienenbaer

            Does the text explicitly refer this sentiment to the Holocaust? Because the notion itself is quite commonly reported, e.g. in Bernt Engelmann’s “In Hitler’s Germany”, but only with reference to the “Kristallnacht” and the deportation/expropriation.

      • veleda_k

        Which is why I specified petty nastiness. Supporting Donald Trump is a very real evil. Drooling over fictional evil empires speaks to a desire to be as awful as possible, even on the most minor level.

    • Origami Isopod

      Cartoon villains were based on real-life conservatives: the cigar-chomping banker, the creepy “your rent or your virtue” landlord, the choleric abusive boss, the military officers all about Prussian-type discipline. Several decades of progressivism, followed by right-wing defunding of public education and domination of the media, left younger generations unable to connect the cartoons to their prototypes.

      • Nobdy

        the cigar-chomping banker, the creepy “your rent or your virtue” landlord, the choleric abusive boss, the military officers all about Prussian-type discipline.

        Ok, I’ll grant you those ones, and throw in the clueless old hunter and the hot-blooded wild-west gunman.

        There has never, however, been any evidence of coyotes ordering complicated machinery from any company named Acme to use in the pursuit of roadrunners. And this is something that has been extensively studied!

        • heckblazer

          No evidence? There was a big lawsuit and everything!

          • Hogan

            This must be Ian Frazier’s biggest week ever on LGM.

        • tsam

          Ummm no, I saw that happen hundreds of times in those Saturday morning documentaries.

        • Give our new Secretary of State a couple of months.

      • los

        real-life conservatives

        and the churchgoing grannies vigorously carrying large branch loppers.

      • los

        left younger generations unable to connect the cartoons to their prototypes.

        a bit of real life experience should cure that.

  • The destruction of Alderaan becomes even more indefensible (if such a thing is possible) after you watch Rogue One, and learn that the Death Star had been used twice in the days before the events of A New Hope, depopulating two planets, one of them a major religious center and a hotbed of rebel activity. So it’s not even like you can make the argument of “use it once and you’ll never have to use it again”.

    • brad

      “Learn” is a fairly generous term to use. Rogue One may be canon because Disney paid for the right to say so, but that doesn’t actually give it the standing to inform anything about Star Wars, the original film.

      • Well, except for how it plugs a massive plot hole that has always made the original film look more than a little ridiculous.

      • Murc

        Rogue One may be canon because Disney paid for the right to say so, but that doesn’t actually give it the standing to inform anything about Star Wars, the original film.

        … yes. Yes, it does. It absolutely has that right.

        This is an insane position on your part. It is like saying that the Silmarillion doesn’t have standing to inform anything about Lord of the Rings. Hell, I’ll go further; it is like saying that Revenge of the Sith doesn’t have standing to inform A New Hope.

        • Donalbain

          No. It isn’t really like that at all. The Silmarillian was written by the same person (or at least from his notes) who created the Lord of the Rings. The two were part of a coherent whole. The same applies to Revenge of the Sith and New Hope. Rogue One is an entirely seperate affair, made with no input from the original creator.

          If I write a prequel to Hamlet, would you say that my masterpiece really has standing to inform anything about Shakespeare’s work?

          • Murc

            Rogue One is an entirely seperate affair, made with no input from the original creator.

            By this logic, then, none of the movies in the MCU have standing to inform most of the other movies, because almost none of them have the same creative teams behind them.

            Or whenever a writer on a comic book changes, nothing the new writer does has standing to inform anything that has gone before.

            • brad

              The MCU is being made continuously by the same production house, and frankly fucks around with little details between films, especially in the post credits scenes.
              Rogue One is canon and that’s how it is, my opinion of it is immaterial, I’m fine with all that. But it doesn’t force me to let it define any aspect of any of the original trilogy, or that I think its too cute attempts to lead right into the next aren’t forced in ways. If nothing else, when talking comics it’s also been the case that unpopular retcons have been undone. Rogue One won’t suffer that fate, but it’s also far from the first canonical take on this story. I just don’t see what it adds, that “plot hole” doesn’t truly bother me in a movie about space wizards who fly faster than light and fight a man made moon that blows up planets.

            • Donalbain

              The MCU is very closely supervised and controlled by the same creative team of producers. Indeed, a strong argument can be made that Kevin Feige is the creator of the MCU.

    • In fairness, they have a cover story for both the limited uses; remember, there’s still (but not for long) a Galactic Senate from which they want to keep their giant infrastructure project of death hidden.

  • Mike Furlan

    RE: Culture Wars, my mangled hung over version

    Real America: I love Tim Tebow, He just Wins.
    Coastal Liberal Elite: No he sucks, here are statistics that prove it.
    Real America: F*ck You! I’m voting for Trump.
    Coastal Liberal Elite: I guess Trump is my fault then.

    • (((max)))

      ‘Tebow would’ve won.’

      max
      [‘If only horking the football through the goalposts counted for points.’]

    • los

      Mike Furlan says:

      Coastal Liberal Elite:

      (or, center and/or ‘left’ punditry)

      I guess Trump is my fault then.

      the irrational response of believers in facts when they fail to trust facts.
      Victims doing the victim-blaming is tiresome.
      and disappointing?

  • I believe that the “first” three are so bad that they do actually support the Kristol view, vertantly or not, ironically or deconstructively or whatever or not.

    There’s a limit to admitting authorial intention into interpretation.

  • The Elizabethan piece is weird. Willpower was the least of the problems of Elizabeth, Burghley and Walsingham. The Papacy and Spain were out to get them, and every Protestant in the country knew it. They got through the crisis by skill, luck, and the mistakes of their enemies. They did not reason in terms of “national decline” but of survival. The USA today need fear no enemy it does not create.

    • I almost never have good things about this genre of policy writing. But I have to admit that this one was so strange that I couldn’t figure out where to start. He might as well have written a piece called “What we can learn from the Assyrian Empire about how to deal with China’s DF-21D program.”

    • los

      The USA today need fear no enemy it does not create.

      “No dear, Donald Trump is your son.”

  • Also, aren’t we supposed to assume Vader always knew Leia is his daughter? He can detect Luke’s force affinity, and we’re led to assume Yoda can detect Leia’s. So the whole beginning of the movie becomes a bizarre child-abuse scenario.

    • DocAmazing

      I’m not sure if Lucas thought through the implications of all of his plot twists or just had a fondness for the stealth ick factor.

      • The stealth ick factor is only really there in Empire where Lucas at least already knew he was going to make Luke and Leia siblings and then had her kiss him. The setup of Star Wars strongly implies that Lucas already had Luke and Vader connected, but making Leia part of the family seems like it came in after the first one was a record breaking hit.

        Anyone who’s delved deeper into the lore around how the movies got made can feel free to correct me here.

        • Yankee

          Life is tough when kissing your brother “for luck” is about the ick factor. Modern family values: each one stands alone. (Han was scoring, as it can now be revealed.)

    • Also, aren’t we supposed to assume Vader always knew Leia is his daughter?

      In Jedi, Ghost Kenobi says that Vader doesn’t know about Luke’s sister. And while this is post-rationalization since I find it very unlikely that Lucas thought it all the way through first, at the end of Star Wars it isn’t until Luke turns off his computer and starts using the Force that Vader can sense it in him. So if Leia doesn’t know who she is and hasn’t been trained at all, it (sort of) stands to reason that Vader wouldn’t know she was his daughter even though she was standing right next him.

      The way I always understood it was that Vader knew he had a child, but didn’t know about them being twins. The crapfest that is Revenge of the Sith more or less supports that interpretation.

      • But does he recognize her force-affinity the way he immediately recognizes Luke’s? Or does she not have it, because she’s a girl, and then why does Yoda say “there is another”?

        (FTM, does he know he has a son before he realizes there’s someone with as strong a relation to the force as his own, on the ship? Or, you’re suggesting at the end of IV Vader realizes he is there among the pilots and assumes he’s male?)

        ETA if he knows who Leia is, it is very easy to re-read the beginning of IV as his keeping her close to keep the Emperor off-guard–once you start seeing Luke’s reconciliation with a misunderstood Dad as the point of the film. Anti-Oedipus, cure of wish to kill the threatening father.

        • I flirted briefly with the idea that “another” is Han, which seemed to fit relatively well with the general attitude.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            I remember thinking that for a while too

            • At 13, I was very certain there should be a sister and she should be the one Yoda was talking about, but I was still surprised a few years later when Leia’s being that sister was revealed.

              • Vader is very clearly looking specifically for Luke as Empire opens. The crawl says as much, and Vader doesn’t have any contact with Luke before he sets his trap at Cloud City, so I always assumed (and this was when I was a kid and rewatching my VHS copy so many times I wore it out) that Vader sensed that Luke was his kid in the Death Star trench and put two and two together.

                Whether or not Vader knew he had a surviving kid is almost irrelevant at that point. Vader doesn’t find out about Leia until his second fight with Luke when he feels Luke’s fear for her. That, in turn, gets Luke to unleash his anger and defeat Vader.

                That last part is the kind of layered storytelling that was completely absent from Star Wars from 1983 until Rogue One. We’ll see how Episode VIII goes.

      • Derelict

        This makes sense in the context of the whole series. The only way Obi-Wan found out that the young Vader had any Force ability was watching the kid race when the kids was using the Force without actually knowing he was doing so.

        Vader did not know he had any offspring. Palpatine told him that his wife died in childbirth, and Vader apparently assumed the child(ren) died as well. So Vader’s encounter with Luke in the original just told him that the Force was strong with some unknown individual. By the time they meet in The Empire Strikes Back, Vader has had time to mull it over (and maybe get clued in by Palpatine that neither of them actually know for a certainty that Vader’s offspring went down with the Padme).

        • Murc

          Palpatine told him that his wife died in childbirth, and Vader apparently assumed the child(ren) died as well.

          First of all, this isn’t true. Palpatine told Vader that he had killed Padme, not that she’d died in childbirth.

          Second of all, assume my foot. Padme is still visibly pregnant at her funeral, as part of the scheme to hide the twins from Vader. That’s why people think her kids died with her.

          • Derelict

            I sit corrected on the details, but the overall point is that Vader was convinced his offspring were dead.

            • This was one of those things the prequels kinda muddied. Going on original trilogy only, it’s an open question as to whether Vader knew he had a kid out there somewhere, or whether he didn’t know he had a kid at all. Ghost Kenobi tells Luke that he was hidden from Vader, but not whether or not Vader knew he existed.

              What the prequels did by making Anakin from Tatooine was make it clear that Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were actually Vader’s relatives and not just some random couple who got stuck raising the kid with the power to save/destroy the galaxy. In that case, if Vader did know that a child of his survived, keeping that kid on Tatooine would’ve been really dumb on Obi Wan’s part.

              I forget whether or not Revenge of the Sith makes it clear to Anakin that Natalie Portman is having twins, but I like to pretend that the prequels never happened so I don’t really care. Regardless, original trilogy Vader did not know Leia was his kid until his second fight with Luke, and even then he just knows its a sister. Leia doesn’t get identified in the scene.

              I will now show myself out.

              • Murc

                What the prequels did by making Anakin from Tatooine was make it clear that Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were actually Vader’s relatives and not just some random couple who got stuck raising the kid with the power to save/destroy the galaxy.

                This was an interesting retcon; in Lucas’ original conception, Owen Lars was Obi-Wan’s brother, not Anakin’s stepbrother.

                I forget whether or not Revenge of the Sith makes it clear to Anakin that Natalie Portman is having twins,

                It was not made clear to him, no.

        • Redwood Rhiadra

          By the time they meet in The Empire Strikes Back, Vader has had time to mull it over (and maybe get clued in by Palpatine that neither of them actually know for a certainty that Vader’s offspring went down with the Padme).

          By the time they meet in Empire, Vader knows Luke’s name (either from spies in the Alliance or from the Rebels using Luke’s name in propaganda), and possibly that he was raised on Tatooine, and he can put two and two together. He wouldn’t have heard of Luke before during the Death Star battle.

    • Murc

      Also, aren’t we supposed to assume Vader always knew Leia is his daughter?

      … no. No, we aren’t. The final confrontation in Return of the Jedi makes it very clear that the presence of a second Skywalker twin is a big, big surprise to Vader, even if you disregard everything from the prequels, which of course we didn’t have in ’83.

      He can detect Luke’s force affinity, and we’re led to assume Yoda can detect Leia’s.

      The Force isn’t 100% rationalist. It isn’t like a metal detector, where it will always ping if you pass a piece of nickel under it. The Force isn’t like that. It is numinous.

      Yoda is a wise and serene old master who spends all his time meditating and is deeply attuned to the Force and lives in a hermitage. Vader is an galactic tyrant full of rage and hatred who spends all hims time keeping his boot on the neck of the galaxy when he isn’t brooding about wrongs done to him. Is it really that much of a surprise that maybe Yoda has divined truths through the Force that Vader does not have?

      • Almost all of the original films are told through Luke’s point of view. He is immature and knows almost nothing about the world, and his point of view is radically undermined throughout the trilogy. For you to be right, however, he has to be a hero so pure in heart that he converts the devil to the party of good. Lucas could have made that movie, maybe, if he hadn’t tried to mash geopolitics together with personal growth psychology in the rationalistic way he did.

        • veleda_k

          For you to be right, however, he has to be a hero so pure in heart that he converts the devil to the party of good.

          Um, yes? That’s exactly what happens in Return of the Jedi. It’s more than that, of course. It’s Anakin’s latent goodness finally coming through too. But, yes, Luke’s goodness and courage reached Vader and encouraged him to redeem himself. That’s exactly what happened.

          • The Dark God of Time

            The son, willing to sacrifice himself in front of his father. Where have I heard this before?

        • Murc

          For you to be right, however, he has to be a hero so pure in heart that he converts the devil to the party of good.

          … yes! This is exactly what happens.

  • Morgoth the Misundertood, by Jonathan Last.

    • postmodulator

      There was a Russian who wrote a take on Lord of the Rings from the Orcs’ point of view, with the Orcs as victims of racism. I don’t know how he felt about Morgoth and Sauron, because, unfortunately, the translation I found was unreadable.

      • Murc

        The Song of Illuminate Darkness, the Morlindale. It isn’t about the orcs so much as about Morgoth and Sauron. It’s specifically AU, not really “from the bad guys point of view.”

        • postmodulator

          No, not that; I’d never seen that before. I mean The Last Ringbearer:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Ringbearer

          • Murc

            … wow, that sounds completely fucking ridiculous, and I say that as someone who has read “Saruman of the Many Devices.”

  • Connecticut Yankee

    The big difference between neoconservatives and Trumpists, of course, is not that one side roots for the Galactic Empire and the other doesn’t, but that neocons convince themselves the Empire aren’t Nazis while Trumpists think it’s awesome that the Empire are Nazis

    • los

      Trumpists think it’s awesome that the Empire are Nazis

      and “confederate flag preservationists” have been conservatives for a long time forever.

  • AMK

    It’s not alltogether clear what the Empire’s overarching economic system is though. The fact that the original trilogy’s only “markets” seem to take place in the context of Han’s smuggling or small-scale trading on Tattooine (a backwater with little imperial control on the ground) suggests it could be a communist dictatorship. The fact that the resistance appears to be led by hereditary royalty and old aristocrats would seem to bolster this claim. Reds vs. Whites.

    • los

      not alltogether clear what the Empire’s overarching economic system is

      and in the Matrix, coppertops as energy source for machines in post-nuclear war, didn’t make sense.

  • Colin Day

    military conflict not embraced by the Mongols.

    Would the Mongols have destroyed an entire planet, even if they had the power. Wouldn’t that be a waste of good pasture?

    In Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe some of Genghis Khan’s advisors tell him that if he kills all the people (North China?) he would get a million bolts of silk now. If he lets them live, he gets half a million bolts every year forever.

    Genghis thinks: Taxation, interesting concept.

    • Murc

      Would the Mongols have destroyed an entire planet, even if they had the power. Wouldn’t that be a waste of good pasture?

      It depends a little bit on relative scale.

      To us, destroying an entire planet seems like a big deal.

      In the context of Star Wars, it might be the scale-equivalent of destroying a city. They’re both not bueno, but the scale changes things.

  • Julia Grey

    Bill Kristol Is Always Wrong.

    • los

      some of Kristol’s Trump-pessimism tweets were good.

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  • los

    off topic, but
    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/hux_crowd-768×320.jpg
    the camera sees perspective effect through 6 rows of troopers.
    but notice that the trooper on that lower stage is unreasonably small (about half height), to be consistent with perspective and the distance on the pavement.

    Hollywood FX, off topic…

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